If you’ve ever attended a funeral or memorial service, you were likely handed a small pamphlet or brochure when you walked in. This was the memorial service program. A memorial service program is a printed document handed out to mourners. It lays out what you can expect from the upcoming service, and also talks about the deceased and the life they lived.
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Even if you’ve seen a memorial service program, the prospect of writing one can be very intimidating. A memorial service program doesn’t just announce a death. It acts as one of the final documents of a person’s life, and you want to do them justice.
This guide will give you some tips and tricks on writing the perfect memorial service program. It will also give you some sample templates to help get you started.
COVID-19 tip: If you're planning a Zoom memorial service using a service like GatheringUs, the order of service, etiquette, and timing will vary. Consult with the funeral director, event planner, or religious leader to see what changes will be made to the ceremony, wake, and reception. And, make sure to add the proper links, passcodes, online funeral etiquette, and troubleshooting instructions to your online guests at least a day or two before the funeral.
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Tips for Creating a Memorial Service Program
If a funeral home is hosting a funeral or memorial service, they’ll often include the task of creating a memorial service program into their fee. However, many families prefer writing the program themselves.
It can feel more personal and can be a cathartic part of the healing process. If you’re opting to write your own program, here are some tips and tricks to help you know what to include.
Tip: If you'd like to ask for donations to help with funeral costs or to give to charity in memory of your loved one, you can set up a fundraiser online with a website like Everloved.
Order of service
A funeral or memorial service program will include an ordered schedule of planned events. These events, when written out chronologically, are called the order of service.
At funerals and memorial services, people have been slated to do readings or deliver a eulogy. Music is often included as well. A choir may perform modern memorial service songs. If the deceased adhered to a particular religion, a religious leader from that faith may deliver a prayer or a sermon.
If they weren’t religious or are planning an atheist funeral, the ceremony will be largely secular. A memorial service program should include all of these events in the order they are scheduled to take place. If you planned the memorial service, this should be easy to incorporate into the program. If you weren’t involved in the planning, you’ll need to coordinate with someone who does know the schedule.
Cover it up
The cover of a memorial service program should make a strong first impression. Covers are usually primarily image-based. You could use a single portrait of the deceased, or include a photo collage of pictures from throughout the deceased’s life.
You could also choose a more abstract image, like a picture of a field or a rainbow. The cover can also include the name of the deceased, the dates of their birth and death, and the details of the memorial service.
Choose appropriate fonts
A memorial service program often serves as a keepsake for family and friends of the deceased. But it’s not solely meant to be decorative. It does contain important information.
While script fonts may look pretty, they aren’t very readable, so use them sparingly. They can be used in a large-sized font on the cover for the program title and the name of the deceased. On the inside of the program though, stick to simple sans serif fonts that are easy to read.
Set the right tone
A memorial service program should fit the solemnity of the occasion. It doesn’t need to be colorful or eye-catching. Avoid neon paper, and stick to simple white paper with black ink. If you do incorporate color, limit it to the cover image.
Organize personal information
Memorial service programs include biographical information about the deceased. Here are some of the items you should endeavor to include.
- Full name of the deceased. Include their nickname if they went by it and their maiden name, if applicable.
- Time, date, and place of memorial service or funeral for posterity. You may also include the times of burials or receptions that may be planned to occur after the service as a practical addition.
- Names and relationships of the surviving family members of the deceased. You may also include the names of close family members that predeceased them.
- Brief biography of the deceased. This can include schooling, employment, hobbies, talents, and names of family members and pets. You may also want to include one or two brief anecdotes that help characterize them.
- Photos of the deceased. A favorite portrait, professional headshot, or a family photograph will do.
- An organization the family may ask mourners to support on behalf of the deceased. Don’t forget to add where to put donations and a brief mission statement of the organization.
- Thanks from the family to people who attended the service.
Get a second opinion
Once you’ve finished writing the program, ask someone else to read it over and weigh in. Ask someone who knows the deceased well enough to correct inaccuracies or remind you of something you forgot. They should also be reading to make sure there are no typos, misspellings, or grammatical errors.
Get them professionally printed
Many home printers don’t print images very clearly. They can also be inconsistent with colors. You can get programs printed relatively inexpensively at most office supply stores or print shops. If you’re not sure where to go, you can talk to the funeral home and get a recommendation for who they use.
Memorial Service Program Template
Even if you don’t know how to plan a memorial service, you can help out by writing a memorial service program. Not sure how to begin? Here’s a sample to help you get started:
[NAME OF DECEASED]
[DATES OF BIRTH AND DEATH]
[SERVICE: Include details of memorial service for posterity.]
Inside Left Page
[MUSICAL PRELUDE: Include the name of the song and who will perform it.]
[WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION: Include the name of the person delivering remarks.]
[REFLECTIONS FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS: Include names of scheduled speakers.]
[EULOGY: Include name of scheduled speaker.]
[MUSICAL INTERLUDE: Include the name of the song and who will perform it.]
[ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Include the name of the person delivering acknowledgment.]
[EXIT MUSIC: Include the name of the song and who will perform it.]
Inside Right Page
[OBITUARY: Can be the same obituary that ran in the newspaper, or can be a new biographical profile written by you.]
[Include something personal to the deceased. This could include a poem, reading, prayer, or lyrics to a song they loved.]
Sample Memorial Service Program
To show you how simple our template is, we’ve gone ahead filled one out as an example. With the right details filled in, the story of your loved one will take on more depth and nuance. You can change and rearrange things as necessary. For instance, the Order of Service may need to be rearranged and have categories added or removed depending on your schedule.
In Loving Memory
April 10, 1981 - November 3, 2019
Saturday, November 9, 2019, 1 pm to 3 pm
Smith and Sons Funeral Home
1234 Main St.
Bradenton, FL 34201
Inside Left Page
Order of Service
Musical Prelude: “Tears in Heaven” played by Soren Lowry
Welcome and Introduction: Dan March
Reflections From Family and Friends: Grace Lowry, Mathis Lowry, Diego Salazar, Mya Piper
Eulogy: Miranda Baird
Musical Interlude: “If I Die Young” sung by Beatrix March
Acknowledgments: Dan March
Exit Music: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” played by Soren Lowry
Inside Right Page
On November 3, 2019, Sadie March (née Lowry) passed peacefully away at her family’s home in Bradenton, FL of complications from lupus. She was 38 years old.
Sadie is survived by her parents Mathis and Grace Lowry; her husband Dan March; her daughter Beatrix March; and brother Soren Lowry. She was preceded in death by her sister Savannah Lowry
Sadie was born on April 10, 1981, in Bradenton, FL. She graduated from Manatee High School in 1999. She went on to attend the University of Florida, where she graduated in 2003 with a BA in English Literature and a minor in Education. She went on to teach creative writing at her alma mater, where she would spend her whole career.
In 2001, Sadie married her high school sweetheart Dan March. They welcomed their daughter Beatrix in 2003. Sadie and her family always bonded over their love of music, and she was delighted when Beatrix shared their enthusiasm. They formed a singing trio with Sadie’s brother and performed at local events, including fundraisers to aid in research for the cure for lupus. Sadie’s family asks that anyone who is so moved donates to the Lupus Foundation of America in her memory.
The Story by Brandi Carlile
All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true, I was made for you
I climbed across the mountain tops
Swam all across the ocean blue
I crossed all the lines, and I broke all the rules
But, baby, I broke them all for you
Oh because even when I was flat broke
You made me feel like a million bucks, you do
I was made for you
Creating a Memorial Service Program
Writing a memorial service program may seem intimidating, but with the right template, it’s a breeze. Ultimately, just focus on making the program detailed and personalized.
Mourners will appreciate it not only for the schedule of events but for the personal glimpse into their loved one’s life.
Tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, closing accounts and other aspects of handling a loved one's unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.